On The Eve Of Earth Day, A.G. Schneiderman Highlights Environmental Accomplishments In 2016

In anticipation of Earth Day, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today showcased a variety of statewide environmental protection initiatives that his office has championed over the past year.

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Schneiderman: Protecting the State's environment is important for the future health and strength of New York.

Photo by: Kevin Porzelt.

Buffalo, NY - April 21, 2016 - In anticipation of Earth Day, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today showcased a variety of statewide environmental protection initiatives that his office has championed over the past year. To mark the occasion, Attorney General Schneiderman will be speaking to a group of community leaders in Buffalo tonight on the impacts of climate change.

“Protecting our air and water and combatting climate change are critical to the future health and well-being of every New Yorker,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Just this year, my office has taken action to protect Long Island’s Pine Barrens, directed resources to reduce dangerous lead contamination in homes in Buffalo, and lead several multi-state efforts related to combatting climate change. These are all important steps toward a safer and healthier environment, but there is more work to be done. This Earth Week, we must reaffirm our commitment to protecting and improving the natural resources in our state and on our planet.”

Recent environmental actions that are benefiting New Yorkers include: 

Long Island

  • Reached settlements totaling over $6 million with owners and operators of 13 inactive hazardous waste sites in New Cassel for their contribution to regional groundwater contamination affecting municipal water supplies. Portions of the recovered amounts will be used to protect undisturbed groundwater resources.
  • On behalf of the Central Pine Barrens Commission, sued the owners of the Hampton Hills Golf and Country Club for allegedly violating the Pine Barrens Act by carrying out excavation, tree clearing, and building construction in the “core preservation” area without obtaining required approval from the Commission.       

New York City

  • With the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, awarded the last round of grants from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, bringing the fund’s total investment in the community to more than $54 million. GCEF is a competitive grant program created from $19.5 million the state obtained from ExxonMobil in a 2011 settlement over the company’s massive oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
  • Won felony convictions of eight New York City motor vehicle inspectors and two corporations charged with issuing more than 13,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to vehicles upon which they conducted no emissions testing. Each defendant pleaded guilty to felony charges. G. Schneiderman has also sued to collect penalties assessed against 24 other unscrupulous motor vehicle inspectors found by the state to have submitted false data to pass cars they did not actually inspect.
  • Won a decision against two Queens neighbors who destroyed rare marine habitat along the heavily developed East River shoreline by illegally placing thousands of cubic feet of fill and retaining walls on their property. The decision requires the defendants to remove the illegal fill and retaining walls, and pay penalties of $1.15 million.
  • Reached a settlement with a New York City landlord over widespread violations of state oil spill prevention laws governing the safe handling and storage of heating oil at residential properties in the Bronx and Manhattan. The violations were corrected by the landlord, who was also required to pay $151,000 in penalties.

Hudson River Valley

  • Joined in successful opposition to a planned design for the LG Electronics headquarters in New Jersey that would have marred vistas of Palisades Interstate Park, a National Natural and Historic Landmark. An agreement was reached to redesign the building to protect the vistas of the Palisades for millions of New Yorkers.
  • Successfully defended the state’s revision of habitat designations of the Hudson River from a challenge by Entergy, the Indian Point nuclear facility’s owner. The revised habitat designations, which include areas adjacent to Indian Point, better protect the river, and its coastal fish and wildlife habitat.  
  • Continued to litigate issues regarding public health, safety, and the environment in ongoing proceedings related to the proposed renewal of the operating licenses for the Indian Point nuclear power facilities for 20 additional years

Central New York

  • Opposed Constitution pipeline’s request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to begin construction by cutting trees along its proposed 126-mile gas pipeline route through four NY counties – before it was determined whether the pipeline project would meet state water quality standards. FERC denied the company’s first request and its second request was withdrawn. 
  • With the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and other states, joined in a settlement with Guardian Industries Corporation that requires significant reductions in air pollution emissions at seven of the company’s “float” glass manufacturing plants nationwide – including its facility in Geneva, NY.  The settlement resolves multiple alleged federal Clean Air Act violations at Guardian facilities. 
  • Won contempt charges against a Cortlandville landowner for failing to comply with a court order requiring him to, among other things, abate the flow of stormwater that is damaging adjacent St. Mary’s cemetery and State Route 281. The flooding of the cemetery has desecrated numerous grave sites, and necessitated the disinterment and reburial of eighteen bodies.

North Country

  • Won a contempt of court decision against a Kingsbury scrap metal operation for failing to complete a court-ordered cleanup of environmental damages caused by the operation’s contamination of air and nearby groundwater by toxic chemicals. The Court ordered the defendants to complete a cleanup and pay a $100,000 penalty. 
  • With the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, reached a settlement to resolve violations of various clean air, and hazardous waste laws, regulations, and permits, at a former General Electric silicone sealant manufacturing plant in Waterford. The settlement requires GE to pay a total civil penalty of $2,250,000, with half this amount ($1,125,000) to the State of New York.

Western New York

  • Invested an additional $347,000 in the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative Buffalo – a more than $7 million effort his office helped establish – to significantly increase the initiative’s home lead hazard intervention and remediation efforts.  The funds, secured via the settlement of a lead contamination lawsuit against Mattel and Fisher-Price, will help address the severe lead contamination and childhood lead poisoning problem that has long-plagued Buffalo. 
  • Joined the federal Environmental Protection Agency and New York Department of Environmental Conservation in a $9.6M settlement with Tonawanda Coke that holds the company accountable for years of ignoring clean air, clean water, and community right-to-know laws. The court-ordered settlement requires the company to clean up its operations, and pay New York $2 million for penalties and local environmental improvement projects in the Tonawanda area.   

Statewide

  • Led efforts in New York to eliminate the pollution of New York waters by plastic microbeads in personal care products, including issuing a first-of-its-kind report demonstrating that microbeads pass through wastewater treatment plants in the state. These efforts facilitated municipal bans across state and, eventually, a federal ban on this pervasive, yet preventable, form of plastic pollution. 
  • Reached a settlement with Wal-Mart over alleged violations of New York’s Nutrient Runoff Law, a 2010 law designed to reduce water pollution caused by excess phosphorus that runs off of lawns into New York waters. The settlement agreement requires Walmart to comply fully with the law and pay $98,000 in penalties to New York State for the alleged violations.
  • Joined a multistate effort highlighting serious flaws in a proposal by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would roll back requirements – including those related to protecting public safety, health, and the environment – related to the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. 
  • Issued a revised code of conduct for the wind energy industry in New York.  The Code promotes the sustainable growth of the wind industry in the state by increasing transparency and deterring improper relationships between local government officials and wind development companies. 
  • With the state Comptroller, reached a $10.75 million settlement with ExxonMobil to reimburse the state’s Oil Spill Fund for oil spill cleanup and petroleum contamination removal costs at eight locations across the state. 

National

  • Initiated an investigation into whether ExxonMobil misled investors and the public on the impact of climate change on its businesses.
  • Found that Peabody Energy Corporation – the largest publically traded coal company in the world – violated New York laws prohibiting false and misleading conduct in the company’s statements to the public and investors regarding financial risks associated with climate change and potential regulatory responses. As part of the agreement concluding the investigation, Peabody will file revised shareholder disclosures that accurately and objectively represent these risks to investors and the public. 
  • Formed an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials from around the country committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combatting climate change. 
  • Leading 25-member coalition in defending the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The rule will significantly reduce climate change pollution nationally while giving New York and other states the flexibility to choose the best measures to cut pollution while maintaining electricity reliability and growing their economies. These rules are critical to protecting public health, welfare, and the environment from climate change.  
  • Leading a coalition of states, successfully advocated for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to propose regulations to reduce emissions of methane – a powerful climate change pollutant – from the oil and gas industry.
  • Petitioned the federal agency responsible for regulating the transportation of hazardous materials to close a loophole that currently allows highly flammable crude oil to be shipped by rail through communities in New York and across the country. A.G. Schneiderman is calling for all crude oil transported by rail in the U.S. to achieve a vapor pressure – a key driver of the oil’s explosiveness and flammability – of less than 9.0 pounds per square inch. 

Leading a coalition of six states and the District of Columbia in defending a federal Environmental Protection Agency rule designed to ensure that lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands across the nation receive proper protection under the federal Clean Water Act.